Block Dewani’s SA extradition, court urged
LEADING judges are being asked to block honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani’s extradition to South Africa until he is fit to stand trial, the British Press Association reported yesterday.
Dewani is fighting removal to face trial over his wife Anni’s death until he has recovered from mental health problems.
Members of Anni’s family were present for the hearing in London before the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Blake.
The hearing followed a decision by the High Court in October that there were outstanding legal issues to be decided.
Dewani’s lawyers have stressed that he will be willing to defend himself at trial, once he is fit to do so.
Yesterday, proceedings at the High Court centred on two issues – Dewani’s status as “an accused person”; and whether it would be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite him, “regardless of the prognosis” of his mental condition.
Lord Thomas said that if Dewani’s legal team won on the first issue, then Dewani “has to be discharged”. But he “could be re-arrested subject to him remaining in this country when he becomes fit”.
In discussion with Clare Montgomery QC, for Dewani, he said that if successful on the second issue, then “you have another adjournment, he remains where he is until better, and then goes”.
His lawyers have said he is unfit to plead under English law.
He is compulsorily detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983, with his next annual review set for May.
The first ground of appeal being addressed by the court asks whether a person who is unfit to plead is “an accused” for the purpose of the Extradition Act 2003, “if he is being extradited in circumstances where he may remain unfit to plead”.
The second question being tackled by the judges is whether it is “unjust or oppressive to extradite a person who is agreed at the time of the determination to be unfit, whatever the prognosis”.
In July, Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle ruled at Westminster Magistrate’s Court that Dewani should be extradited, and rejected his attempt to stay in the UK for further hospital treatment.
He said Dewani, from Bristol, was not fit to plead or stand trial at present, but that there was evidence he would receive the care he needed in South Africa.
Riddle originally gave the go-ahead to Dewani’s extradition in 2011, but had to recon- sider the position after the High Court allowed his appeal in March last year.
Dewani is accused of ordering the killing of his new wife Anni, 28, who was shot as the couple travelled in a taxi in Gugulethu in November 2010.
So far, three men have been convicted of her death.
Last year Xolile Mngeni was convicted of premeditated murder for shooting her.
Prosecutors claimed he was a hitman hired by Dewani to kill Anni, which Dewani has consistently denied.
Taxi driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years after he admitted his part in the killing, and another accomplice, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, also pleaded guilty to murder and received a 25-year prison sentence.
Dewani’s family have said that the accused remains committed to returning to South Africa “when his health would permit a full trial, and when appropriate protections are in place for his health and safety”. – Sapa
‘UNFIT’: Shrien Dewani
MURDERED: Anni Dewani